Spring stew – I never knew! Magic in a bowl and easy to make!
What a discovery. If you are in the mood for a light spring beef stew, Denise’s version will knock your socks off. A bit of mint, lemon zest, and WOW. Even il ragazzino loved it. The sauce just oozes depth of flavor and the meat, just oh-so-tender.
I’m already plotting a repeat. Even better, this spring beef stew is easy to make with your pantry essentials.
Read on after the recipe for some spring beef stew wine pairing tips!
Highlights from my lesson in how to make spring stew with Denise:
- One of the most important aspects of a good stew is properly browning the beef. I’ve been making stews for some time now, but I’ve never felt comfortable with my browning technique. Denise suggests using a rondeau pan because it allows you to brown all the beef in one go. Apparently, this shallow pan, similar to a stockpot or dutch oven (but not as deep), is a chef staple. I’ll be getting one when I can shop again.
- Garlic powder. OMG. I can’t believe I did not know. I had this idea in my head that ‘fresh is best’, so I just always have bulbs for my cooking. But, Denise explains that it does not disperse as easily and readily or stick to the food as well. And, for soups, stews, and sauces where garlic plays a supporting role, it’s perfect for not as much punch. However, it is important to note that in this recipe, we use both garlic powder (to season the meat) and fresh garlic to flavor the veggies.
- Keep the meat submerged, if that means you have to add more (COLD!) water, do it. If you don’t, you risk tough and dry meat.
- On the best beef for spring stew, Denise says to ask your butcher for younger meat from a female cow as it gives you more tender beef with a less gamey flavor. She stresses that this is just for lighter versions, like spring beef stew with a little cream, lemon, and mint as you don’t want the meat to overwhelm the other flavors. But, for a dark stew, like beef burgundy, you do want gamier meat.
- Shoulder meat is the best for your spring beef stew, such as chuck. A rear muscle like a bottom round works, but chuck is more tender because there is more connective tissue, which keeps the meat moist during a long, slow simmer. She also suggests buying a chuck blade to cut the stew meat yourself. I’m not sure I have enough confidence in my kitchen skills for that yet, but she assures me we will get there in our cooking adventures!
Denise's Spring Stew with Lemon, Mint, & Glazed Carrots
- 1 kg / 2 1/4 lbs stew meat cut into 2-inch squares
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into eights
- 2 large carrots, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 large celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt & black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 4 tsp all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp olive oil
- ½ bottle white wine (or even the whole bottle, as Denise often does)
- 1.5 liters cold water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- zest of one lemon
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
- Prepare all your vegetables.
- Lay the meat on a cutting board or large cookie sheet. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder your meat. Toss the pieces well to coat.
- Sprinkle 2 TBS of flour over the meat. Toss the cubes to coat evenly. Sprinkle the other 2 TBS of flour over the meat and toss again to make sure the meat is well coated and all the flour is used.
Browning the meat
- If using a dutch oven, brown in two or three batches. A rondeau pan will have a wider bottom and all the meat browns in one go. A nice brown crust is essential for creating a rich-tasting stew, so do not rush the process.
- Heat the olive oil on medium in a heavy-bottomed dutch oven or rondeau such as a Le Creuset or similar. When the oil is hot but not smoking add the meat in one even layer, leaving a bit of space between the cubes.
- Do NOT move the pieces around but leave to brown well on the bottom and then turn each piece over to brown the other side. A pair of tongs is useful here. Remove the pieces and put on a plate. As necessary, repeat with remaining meat.
- ADD the wine: When the meat is nicely browned, return it to the pot and pour half (or the whole) bottle of dry white wine over the meat. The wine should bubble vigorously. With a spatula, like a pancake turner, scrape up the carnalized browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot and incorporate it into the liquid.
- ADD the water. Make sure the 1.5 liters of water is COLD. Turn up the heat and return to boil. Then, decrease to a low simmer.
- In a skillet, heat 1 TBS of olive oil and add all the chopped vegetables: onion, carrot, celery, and minced garlic. Cook on medium to medium-high heat until the onion becomes just translucent. Add all the lightly toasted vegetables to the stew and stir to combine.
- Simmer for 2 hours, partially covered. The lid should be on about half-way so the pot is not completely covered. Check every 15 minutes or so, gently stirring the stew. Keep the meat almost submerged in liquid. If it gets below by about 3/4s, add another cup or so of cold water.
- In the meantime, peel and cut the other two carrots into oblique shapes. In a small sauté pan, bring a cup of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Add the carrots and cook until just tender. Pour off all but 1 TBS of water. Put back on the heat and add 1 TBS of olive oil and carefully reduce the water down to almost nothing. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Prep your asparagus, peas, fava beans, or veggie of choice and set aside.
- After 2 hours, check the meat to see if it is nice and tender. If needed, continue to simmer another 15 minutes to a half-hour, adding a little bit of water as needed to keep the liquid up to 3/4s of the meat.
- Finishing the stew: There are two ways you can go here – keep it rustic or make it more refined.
- Add cream, lemon zest, and mint as follows:
- Refined: Remove the pieces of meat to a clean platter. Strain the stew juices into a clean pot through a medium-fine large strainer. Press hard on the vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the stewing vegetables. Wash out your dutch oven and return the meat and stew juices to the pot. Add the oblique carrots. Then add the heavy cream, grated lemon zest, and chopped fresh mint. Stir gently into the stew and bring back to a simmer. Adjust for salt but the stew should be just about right. Denise says the extra effort here is totally worth it. Serve and enjoy.
- Rustic. No need to remove the stewing vegetables, just add the other oblique cut carrots. Then add the heavy cream, lemon zest, and chopped fresh mint. Stir gently and briefly bring back to simmer. Adjust for salt but the stew should be just about right. Serve and enjoy.
Spring Stew Wine Pairing – let’s get to it!
Over the course of two nights, I tried two different spring beef stew wine pairing options. On the first night, I went with a Langhe Nebbiolo and on night two, I busted out a Langhe Freisa frizzante. Both were great and the freisa added a nice little pop with the effervescence.
In general, a beef stew pairs consistently well with a complex red. But, when you start adding ingredients to lighten it up, like we did here with the mint and lemon zest, you need something a little fresher to balance it out.
Pelaverga from Verduno
Denise paired her spring beef stew with the lesser-known pelaverga grape from the Barolo winemaking area of Verduno. I’m a huge fan of this wine and once I tasted my spring stew, I was just itching to try it with pelaverga.
The light red wine characteristically throws strawberry, rhubarb, and white pepper, making it perfect with a dish like this – I often use it with turkey for my Thanksgiving dinners. Always make sure it’s got a chill on it before serving.
Only about 14 producers make it, solo in Verduno, producing about 140000 bottles a year. Definitely give it a try. My favorite producers are Fratelli Alessandria and Diego Morra.
Albert Viberti Langhe Nebbiolo 2018
This wine came highly recommended by Stefano of La Vite Turchese. We put in our latest wine offer and hearing him talk about it got me all kinds of intrigued, so like any good businesswoman (who is endorsing a wine) and wine student, I requested a bottle to give it a swirl. Wow. He wasn’t kidding.
Viberti is just 21 years old and this wine is only his second vintage. The sandy clay soil gives it an elegant richness. The wine is fermented in concrete and steel-aged – it sees no wood – giving it a beautiful freshness with yummy red fruits. The silky elegance and vibrant red fruit is a great stew wine pairing.
Voerzio Martini Langhe Lamorrina Freisa frizzante 2018
The frizzante freisa is a great spring stew wine pairing. The wine gives blackberry, blueberry, and balsamic on the palate with just the right effervescence to kick the fresh, spring flavors up a notch.
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